Anthony Davis is playing — and starting — for the New Orleans Pelicans Friday night against the Timberwolves in a nationally televised game.
Davis had been medically cleared for nearly a week now and wanted to play, but the Pelicans held in out in advance of the trade deadline to protect him from injury in case a trade they liked came together. None did.
However, they will trade him this summer, so why not put him on the shelf for the rest of the season for the same reason? There’s some logic to it for the Pelicans and Davis.
Not, however, for the NBA league office. Brian Windhorst explained at ESPN.
After reviewing its rules, the league office informed the Pelicans that they would be expected to play Davis, starting with Friday night’s nationally televised game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, sources said.
The league referred the Pelicans to rules put in place in 2017 that restrict teams from resting healthy players. The Pelicans, league sources said, were told that they would be subject to a fine of $100,000 per every game if Davis were benched.
It would be a black eye to the NBA to rest a healthy Davis — people pay good money to see him play. It’s one thing to put J.R. Smith in limbo (it’s fair to ask if he’s even a rotation player on a good team now), but doing it to Davis — one of the five, if not three, best players on the face of the Earth — is something else entirely.
Davis will play fewer than his averaged 37 minutes a night, and he will be rested on half of back-to-backs, but he will play.
The Pelicans — and Davis’ suitors — will cross their fingers he stays healthy.